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New president’s track record at past university raises student concerns

Last year, George Mason University hired Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh to join its law school faculty.

In response, a group of outraged GMU students and a coalition of students who were victims of sexual assault, better known as Mason For Survivors, rallied against the school leadership for hiring a person famously accused for sexual assault.

Students rallied and demanded for school leadership to terminate Kavanaugh’s contract and asked for more resources to support students who experienced sexual assault and sexual harassment on-campus instead. 

One of the leaders they rallied against was then-provost and executive vice president, and now newly appointed Baruch College President S. David Wu. 

When asked about his opinion on Kavanaugh back then, Wu said, “it was the law school’s decision to hire him and there was ‘no reason for university administrators to override’ that decision,” as reported by The Washington Examiner

GMU hosted a townhall to address these concerns among other things. 

At this town hall, reported by Fairfax County Times, Wu added, “While all faculty hiring is a collective decision, individual schools and academic departments are primarily responsible for handling their own hires, and Mason’s administration usually does not override their decisions unless there are legal issues.” 

Given Wu’s comments, one wonders how much is too much sexual assault before he can no longer ignore the cries of survivors. 

Even if the ultimate decision to hire Kavanaugh was beyond the control of Wu’s oversight, this was an opportunity to condemn the decision and take a stand with survivors. This was an opportunity to be a helping hand toward students.

Instead, Wu sought to throw off the blame by simply blaming the process instead of acknowledging the pain. 

Even if the channels that Wu had access to at GMU were not formal channels within the hiring process, the CUNY Board of Trustees — which includes school leaders, faculty and a student — must still question Wu’s involvement in the hiring process of Kavanaugh. 

It is hard to believe that Wu, who was the head of all major affairs happening within the university, had absolutely no sway to influence the decision by informal means.

Furthermore, one must ask whether, as college president, Wu will override all future hires who have allegations of sexual assault, sexual harassment or sexual violence. 

Does Wu want to set a precedent of valuing prestige over the trauma of survivors? 

Before Wu starts his tenure at Baruch, he must clarify his record as GMU’s provost and executive vice president, including Kavanaugh’s hiring, and what he now thinks about the private university’s decision to work with the judge. 

At the height of the #MeToo movement, Baruch should have a college president who is willing to stand against sexual assaulters in both a legal and ethical standpoint. 

As a student of color, I applaud CUNY’s commitment to having more diversity in its leadership. 

I am also proud that my institution will welcome its first Asian American college president — representing an institution attended by majority students of color. 

However, as a participant of the #MeToo movement, Wu’s ambiguous record on Kavanaugh raises concerns from Baruch faculty and students who experienced or are strong advocates against sexual assault, sexual harassment and sexual violence.

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